Frisson

So far we’ve commissioned over 35 new Canadian works and we usually program one of them on every recital we play. We also have recorded 3 CDs devoted entirely to new music written for us. Except for some family members who can be relied upon is to say things like “Are you going to be playing any of that weird music on that concert?”, we’re never quite sure what the reaction will be when we put a new work between some Bach or Beethoven. Ditto for when we make a record of all new Canadian pieces. So we were doubly thrilled when Incarnation was not only selected by CBC as one of the top ten classical albums of the year (and that’s a pretty broad category mind you) but also won Classical Album of the Year at the ECMAs. Thanks goes to the five great composers – Chan Ka Nin, Denis Gougeon, Alice Ho, Jocelyn Morlock and Andrew Staniland – who inspire us with their bravery (yes, bravery. It takes bravery to be a classical composer), imagination, beautiful art, and originality.

We recently added another wonderful new work to our repertoire – Frisson – by Randolph Peters. Usually when we commission a new piece, we’re sent the music and then if we’re lucky the composer might hear it at the premiere. But most times there’s not too much collaboration. This time, however, Randolph and the Duo thought it might be neat to document the process of writing and learning a new piece. We created what we think is an interesting video using material from interviews, the score, a workshop with students at Memorial University, and, of course, the premiere performance. By the way, the word “frisson” means “a sudden strong feeling of excitement or fear” and describes the goosebumps you might feel at a climatic, intense musical moment. Randolph gave himself the challenge of trying to write a piece which causes a frisson moment in the listener. So you know, that is suppose to happen at about 12:17 in the video. And if it didn’t do that for you at this premiere performance, we promise we’ll nail it when we record it on our next all Canadian CD!


2018/05/31

‘Tis the Season

We got a lovely Holiday surprise when our all-Canadian CD Incarnation was recently picked by CBC as one of the top 10 Classical Album of 2017! We are delighted beyond words! Thanks to the composers – Chan Ka Nin, Alice Ho, Andrew Staniland, Denis Gougeon and Jocelyn Morlock – for writing us such fabulous pieces and to the recording team of David Jaeger and Dennis Patterson for their amazing work in the booth.

As 2017 comes to a close we’re so pleased to share our newest CD – Perfect Light – a collection of original holiday arrangements written especially for us – and clarinettist Christine Carter who joins us on five tracks – by Clifford Crawley. Creating this CD was an extraordinarily meaningful experience as it was the last project Cliff worked on before he passed away in February of 2016.

We developed a special friendship with Cliff over the ten plus years he lived in St. John’s. He had retired from teaching composition at Queen’s University and followed his wife, renowned ethnomusicologist Bev Diamond, when she joined the Memorial University faculty. Cliff took no time in becoming a vital part of his new home, embracing opportunities to write for numerous St. John’s musicians with vigor, skill, and great generosity. The Duo’s first collaboration with Cliff was It Takes Two – an encore CD designed to showcase both the violin and piano equality. Cliff seemed to effortlessly produce these 14 wonderful and witty arrangements of opera arias, jazz tunes, musical numbers, and classical hits, recasting these well-known pieces in a fresh and imaginative way. More requests followed – ballet arrangements, original pieces – all produced with speed, enthusiasm, tremendous creativity, and big-heartedness.

Clifford Crawley 1929 – 2016

Our final requests of Cliff turned out to be these Christmas arrangements. It is not an easy task to arrange vocal music, where the text can change with each verse, for instruments only. Yet Cliff found a way to bring these tunes alive with just violin, piano, and, now and then, a clarinet. Often using the song as merely a starting point for an original fantasia, he cast new light on these old favorites. He worked on these up to the end of his life, completing them all but for “In the Bleak Midwinter”, which we recorded as a fragment only.

We are ever grateful for his treasured presence that lives on in our hearts through all these works, and we will always remember his kindness, wit, wisdom, talent, and generosity. This CD is dedicated to his memory.


2017/12/01

Incarnation

Incarnation CD coverOur newest CD – Incarnation – comes out in May and contains five pieces written especially for us by Chan Ka Nan, Denis Gougeon, Alice Ho, Jocelyn Morlock and Andrew Staniland. Tim and I are extremely proud of this disc and I’d like to try to put in words some of why that is.

As a student I was fascinated by the connections between some of my favourite composers and the first performers of their pieces. Bartok, for example, had special relationships with three wonderful Hungarian violinists – Joseph Szigeti, Zoltan Szekely, Jelly d’Aranyi – and these friendships (and, in the case of d’Aranyi, infatuation) inspired bold, original, and canonical works: the Rhapsodies, Contrasts, the magnificent Violin Concerto and Two Sonatas for Violin and Piano. Likewise, Prokofiev and Shostakovich had their violin muse in the great David Oistrahk who was a first performer and/or inspiration for Prokofiev’s two violin sonatas and Shostakovich’s two violin concertos as well as his only violin sonata. Perhaps the greatest example of a fruitful composer/performer relationship was that of Brahms and Joseph Joachim. Joachim, who inspired and helped revise some of Brahms’ sublime Violin Concerto and was also the impetus for the Brahms double concerto, was also the dedicatee of the Bruch, Dvorak, and Schumann concertos!

When I think about a great piece of music, it seems as though it was always there – a basic necessity that acts as a catalyst, deepening my connection to life. Can a violinist imagine the world without the Brahms Concerto, for example? How could it never be there? Of course, there was a time when these great works did not exist. Indeed, without the role that performers played in the creation of these works, we would likely have no Brahms, Bartok, Shostakovich, Dvorak, or Bruch concertos!

Each of the new works on Incarnation started out as “Wouldn’t it be great to commission so-and-so?” followed shortly thereafter by planning the premiere performance, applying for funding, brainstorming other performance opportunities , thinking of how to tie it into larger programs or connect it to other repertoire. Eventually, when the anticipated piece arrives (hopefully with enough time to learn it well), the time consuming, technically challenging, experimental, but extremely interesting process of bringing it to life begins. (A whole other blog entry could be written on this process.) The final result – a premier performance where we hope to give a convincing and true performance of our courageous and immensely creative composer’s new work, and that we safely deliver into the world a creation that will live long past our time.

While we are under no delusions about our musical skills in relation to the above-mentioned great players, we would like to hope that we share a similar devotion to the music of our time. Of the 25 new works Duo Concertante have commissioned and premiered so far, a number are getting performed over and over by other players. And there are others we think will find their place in the sonata repertoire over time. It is wonderful to be a part of this legacy.


2017/04/16